ahunter3 (ahunter3) wrote,

Listen to a Different Voice

"All I've taken away from your long-winded blatherings is that you are a straight, cisgender male that has feminine qualities", says Thomas. "Why can't you just embrace that, instead of needing a special word and claiming it's your identity? As far as I can tell, all this makes you... a straight cis male. You're like the male equivalent of a tomboy. Hey, most of us don't fit every stereotype, you know!"

Actually, "sissy" -- the male equivalent of a tomboy, as Thomas says -- was indeed one of the first "special words" I tried using to describe my situation.

So, sure, I can sit myself down and listen. I don't have to be all "you are wrong" and argumentative. I can consider you to be pitching an alternative formulation for me to consider. There are several communities of people I wish would do me the same favor, instead of telling me I am wrong if I say things differently than what they've decided is their truth.

Thomas -- who is totally on-board with gay and lesbian issues, and the concerns of transgender people who actually transition -- is echoing the sentiments of a lot of my gender-critical feminist colleagues. They, as you may know, are questioning the current social concepts about transgender people who transition.

Unlike Thomas, who sees me as very definitely not transgender, the gender critical feminists tend to conflate my situation and everything I say about it with the transgender phenomenon.

But where Thomas (and others who think like him) and the gender critical feminists tend to agree is: what I'm saying, and what I'm claiming as my identity, isn't valid or doesn't make sense.

Great. I'm a unifier.

Both the gender-critical feminists and Thomas keep telling me I should consider billing myself as a feminine male man.

Let's consider that.

I grew up with my childhood in the 1960s and my puberty, adolescence and early adulthood in the 1970s. That means I came of age alongside of feminism, and the voice of feminism told me double standards were unfair -- that if it was okay for girls and women to be feminine, it had to be okay for boys and men to be feminine. That it was sexist to have one set of traits, behaviors, characteristics, etc expected or required from one sex and a different set from the other. Which is in large part what the gender-critical feminists and Thomas and his ilk are offering me as an alternative formulation to how I present my gender identity these days.

I embraced those feminist ideas. They said I was valid. They said the people calling me names and telling me I wasn't "doing boy" correctly were not valid.

I embraced those ideas but they were insufficient. They didn't dive deep enough into the situation I would be in as a sissy feminine male person attracted to the female folks. That's mostly because feminism is about female liberation, and female experience. So the specifics were all about the aspects of female existence where sexist double standards impacted female people. Without specifics, just rejecting the notion of sexist double standards can be a lot like saying, As Anatole France did, that "The law, in its majestic equality, forbids rich and poor alike to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal loaves of bread".

Feminism dove into an immense number of situations to untangle how unequal priorities and treatments and expectations affected women. I didn't have access to a similar library of analyses of the situations I found myself in as a heterosexual sissy male in patriarchal society.

Queer theory emerged in the 80s as gay males started making this kind of systematic examination of the situations of non-heterosexual people. A lot of those observations were accepted, embraced, and incorporated by feminists as part of an expanded understanding of patriarchy. But transgender women and radical feminists had gotten off to a bad start and have never been on speaking terms, and don't tend to listen to each others' concepts and ideas. So as queer theory also started incorporating the experiences of transgender people, feminist theory and the nascent queer theory pushed off from each other somewhat, leaving lesbian feminists occasionally stranded or pulled on from both camps.

Me too. As I said, I grew up with feminism and found validation from it. But it wasn't examining my situation and neither were the new truths and assertions from transgender activism addressing it or speaking for me or giving me anything to hold onto.

The simple feminist "erase all gender expectations and have a unisex world" prescription, as voiced by Thomas and the gender critical feminists as described above, has shortcomings which I've addressed in these previous blog posts:

Androgyny & Unisex vs Being Differently Gendered

To Oppose Patriarchy: It's Different For Men

The people calling me names and telling me I wasn't "doing boy" correctly did not understand that I'd lost interest in "doing boy". The identity being shoved at me was social, not biological, and I declined it. I wasn't doing boy differently via being feminine and seeking acceptance as such; I reached the point where I had no interest in being accepted as a boy of any sort.

If we cannot use the word "oppression" to describe men's plight, how can we speak of it? That, of course, is the point: we cannot. Because patriarchy does not recognize the ultimate destructiveness of tyranny to tyrants, the fathers have no word-and therefore no concept-for the kind of dehumanization, the severe characterological damage, done to men by their use of violence of all kinds to dominate women and all "others". Men who are becoming conscious must find their own language for their experience.

-- Sonia Johnson, Going Out of Our Minds: the Metaphysics of Liberation

That is exactly what I sought out to do in the 1980s as a women's studies major (a tale which will be made available when my next book, That Guy in our Women's Studies Class, comes out next year), and what I am continuing to do now in writing these blog posts.

I can't do so "as a feminist", within feminism, as a part of the feminist community. Feminism, as I said, exists for the purpose of female liberation, and speaks from female experience; I can't really modify any part of it or add to it without being perceived as an interloper and an invader, at least by some, and while some people in the LGBTQIA world often also see and regard me as a hostile invasive force, it's constituted around multiple variant identities instead of one primary identity, which affords me more room to say "me too, move over". But that does mean finding ways of expressing my situation in terms and within concepts that are in use there.

It isn't phony: when I first came out in 1980, I specifically conceptualized myself as a fundamentally different identity from straight guys, gay guys, or transsexual women. I didn't see my concerns as the concerns of men within patriarchy but as the concerns of heterosexual sissies within patriarchy. So I'm not barging in to use the LGBTQIA voice for expediency reasons.

But I speak with my own voice. You should consider it, listen to it, regardless of your embrace (or lack of it) of either the transgender people's theories or the theories of feminism, and don't be in such a hurry to conflate everything that doesn't seem to come from your own camp with whatever you don't like about the perspectives you currently disagree with.


My book, GenderQueer: A Story From a Different Closet, has been published by Sunstone Press. It is available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble in paperback and ebook, and as ebook only from Apple, Kobo, and directly from Sunstone Press themselves.

My second book, That Guy in Our Women's Studies Class, is also being published by Sunstone Press. It's a sequel to GenderQueer. It's expected to be released in early 2022. Stay tuned for further details.

Links to published reviews and comments are listed on my Home Page


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Tags: androgyny, cisgender, communication, femininity, feminism, feminist theory, gender studies, guy in ws (book 2), heterosexuality, lgbtq, patriarchy, women's studies

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